Saturday evening and the TV does not work, a long train ride, rain during summer vacations, a mega traffic jam on the motorway – to deal with such situation and prevent boredom, we have a collection of family games available. If we are with smaller children the game session usually starts with "I spy with my little eye something beginning with B..." (when the kids are to small to handle the alphabet we use colours).
You don't need special materials for many family games. What we usually take with us when we are "on tour" is a folder with some sheets of paper, a few pens and a several print outs, like these of the city-country-river game. Besides paper and pencil you don't need anything to play it, and if you are not too strictly sticking to the rules it is even for the youngsters great fun to play.
Our city-country-river template to print out has 10 categories, and they are:
City - Country - River - Mountain - Animal - Plant - Name - Celebrity - Job - Dish and additional fields for the letter and points.
To make it easy to choose the letters, we also made a template for all the letters in the alphabet, altogether 26 letters.
Template ABC (pdf)
That's how you play City-Country-River
A letter of the alphabet is drawn, all start to write down city, country, … with this letter. For example: if the letter is S - City: Salzburg, Country: Sweden, River: Shenandoah, Mountain: Sunnyslope, Animal: Siberian Tiger, Plant: Sunflower, Name: Sinead, Celebrity: Delia Smith, Job: Screenwriter, Dish: Schnitzel. You can start playing the game if you are 2 persons or more.
The person which fills each of the categories with a right answer shouts "stopp!". The remaining players can finish the word they wanted to write and then it is time to start counting points:
If you have filled in a word correctly you get 10 points,
if two or more used the same term each one gets 5 points,
if you are the only one who filled in a category with the current letter you will get 20 points, if e.g. no one else has found a river starting with S.
All points are collected and listed at the end of each line.
Before starting it is useful to talk about the categories and define what is allowed and what ain't. Does it only count to name a city that is by definition a city or can it be a village as well. Do only nations classify as country or can it be a province or federal state as well. Especially when kids are playing as well we recommend to expand the category river to all bodies of water and count lakes and seas.
The category mountain is one of the most difficult ones (even to people who live in the Alps), we interpret it very widely and allow all kinds of peaks, passes and glaciers. And if you cross e.b. The Alps on your way to your vacations, you can see how City-Country-River turns into an educational game, as everyone tries to memorize all the names of the tunels and tubes. If there is a Mont Blanc Tunnel, Mont Blanc is a good term for mountain with M, or Tauern Tunnel gets you to mountain with T and St. Gotthard Tunnel leads you to St. Gotthard Pass and counts as mountain for S.
When filling in animals use animal species, but what about animals that are extinct? Think of all kind of Dinosaurs or the Tasmanian Tiger. And what about fantasy animals, does dragon count as animal with D. With plants all species of plants are allowed, but no umbrella terms like tree or meadow.
The category names is one we started for the younger players, as this is one to easily fill out for them. The category of celebrities causes much laughter, before starting the game you have to define if it is the name or surname of the celeb that counts. We usually allow both, meaning Oprah Winfrey, counts for O as well as W. Do celebrities have to be alive and are fantastic celebrities like figures out of fairy tales allowed as well. And when is a person a celebrity? When finding jobs there might appear some funny suggestions is gangster a job for the letter G. With the category dishes you should talk if drinks and brands count as well, are Oreos a dish? And what about scones? When we play this game with kids and juveniles the rules are not very strict and especially with younger kids a lot would be counted to keep the fun in the game.
Among adults City-Country-River can turn into a very competitive party game and it is useful to discuss definitions and rules and to have a dictionary at hand or internet acess to be able to check if one or another peak or pass really exists.
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